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Nostalgia Trip: On growing up, growing apart, and getting back in touch

11.November 2009

I’m realizing that a lot of the cooking I do is motivated by a desire to return (at least gastronomically) home, to an earlier time. Most of the recipes that have excited me lately are ones from my childhood, things my mom cooked when we were little and the weather was turning cold.

The funny thing is realizing that nostalgic home-time is beginning to extend to include college, a time that I did not spend at home, a time when I wasn’t yet cooking and when I wasn’t regularly eating my mom’s food anymore. It was a magical, now very far-away time, though, with hours spent idly sitting around, never short on fodder for conversation or making mudslides in a cheap blender bought at Wal-Mart and installed in our semi-functional and always filthy house kitchenette. Oreos, peppermint ice cream, and some milk carried back from the dining hall in a coffee mug. Or coming up with ways to make the sadly deteriorating pool table more functional.

How was it that we could just be in each others’ company so easily? It seems like lately we’ve turned to watching TV or playing games or doing things to distract from the way things have changed. Are we becoming less interesting? Less close? Less talented at friendship? Is it just a part of growing up and shifting our attentions elsewhere (marriage, homes, money, children?) or is it some natural talent that we just grow out of?
Or maybe I’m just being pessimistic and short-sighted. Maybe the only difference is that we just have less time and it’s less convenient, since we don’t all live under one roof together. Maybe it’s just that I spend all of my time at home just hanging out with my husband. Maybe we just need to clear our schedules every once in a while and just make time to be in the same place as the people we love, doing nothing.

This is precisely what I did with my dear K on Sunday. We had brunch (oh, so grown-up), and then we hung out at my house, looking at Vogue, flipping through cookbooks, chatting about nothing in particular. Then we went to the supermarket and reminisced about making mudslides while buying the ingredients to make one of my most nostalgic treats.
My memories of these cupcakes (many childhood birthdays, random winter days, special occasions that warranted cupcakes) are densely layered on top of one another and now I’m happy to think that I’ve added another Black-Bottom-Cup memory to the pile. Now these are the cupcakes that I grew up on, but also the cupcakes I grew back down with. They were there as I was lunging toward adulthood, but they also accompanied me and my friend on a little trip back in time to the days when we lived together, boys took up less of our time, and just killing time was the sweetest thing we could do.
This little baking afternoon helped me reconnect with one of my dear friends and also with an earlier version of myself, but I’m dedicating this post and the recipe (thanks as ever, mom!) to all the friends I used to sit around with, go on long Mill River walks with, nap with, do homework with, and grow up with. I miss you all desperately and hope that one day we can kill time and shoot the breeze together soon. Meanwhile, bake these and think of me.

Black Bottom Cups

Filling:

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 6 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 t vanilla
  • ½ t almond extract

Combine ingredients except for chocolate chips in a small bowl and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and set mixture aside.

Batter:

  • 1 c sugar
  • ¼ c cocoa
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 ½ c flour, sifted
  • ½ t salt
  • 1/3 c vegetable oil
  • 1 c water
  • 1 T vinegar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • chopped nuts (optional)

Sift dry ingredients together. Add remaining ingredients except (optional) nuts and mix well. Fill paper muffin cups 1/3 full with chocolate batter. Top each with a heaping teaspoonful of cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle with nuts. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Makes 2 dozen.

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